As Jennifer mentioned, I too applaud you for taking this course in life, as it is very prestigious to think of others and do what you can to help them.
I will answer your questions to the best of my ability, as I also established a 501(c)3 non-profit organization to help families with childhood cancer years ago.
My recommendation for the first step is to apply for a Federal EIN (tax ID number as a non-pofit). The reason for this is so you can ask for donations ahead of time. However please note that until you have been approved by the IRS, any deductions large or small are not tax deductible. It also costs at least $400 to file the paperwork to the IRS for tax exempt process. I paid for this up front and if I knew back then to get my EIN earlier, I could have enlisted the help of family, friends, others.
Now to get your Tax Exemption status. You will need to file paperwork status. We went through Legal Zoom to take care of all the Federal and State (TX) forms, etc. (which once again I paid for). If you have friends that are in legal, I'm sure they could help you pro bono. Speaking of legal work, I'm not sure all what you envisioned with "legal work". However you will need to ensure that when you setup your non-profit that you have a President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer; all of which need to be someone different, but can be family, friends, etc. You will need to keep meeting minutes every time you meet, as this is part of your tax exemption status. You will need to create by laws on what your mission is and how you plan to allocate funds, etc. Legal Zoom can help with a lot of this, besides handling all the Federal and State legal paperwork.
To help raise funds, you want a large social media platform, but you need to start slow. Create your Facebook page and share/suggest family & friends "like" it. On Twitter and Instagram, follow other causes or people that share your mission. Make sure you use good hashtags to get your vision out there and let those that have an interest to follow you. Don't pay for companies to have followers added for you, as that doesn't help anyone. When people follow you, follow them back as long as their profiles don't have anything derogatory in them.
I'm sure you would love to start this right away, but this is something HUGE and in my opinion if you want it to succeed, you need to take your time to cross all the t's and dot all the i's. You also want to make sure that you are doing your best to reach out to other people within your city, state, countries, etc the best you can with social media and your website - but don't rush. Start with friends and family, then ask them to help. Then start working and getting your name out there locally and spread throughout the state, etc.
Charles recommends the following next steps:
- Apply for Federal EIN so you can potentially ask for donations to raise funds. https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/apply-for-an-employer-identification-number-ein-online
- Work with someone in legal to help form your paperwork to get all paperwork filed with Federal and State. Or use a service like Legal Zoom. Here's a link to requirements for 501(c)3 status: https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/charitable-organizations/exemption-requirements-section-501c3-organizations
- Make sure you do your best to read everything you need to keep your status, so you can raise funds, etc. Here's an article on what you need to do to maintain status, including keeping minutes and providing financial records to the IRS. https://info.legalzoom.com/requirements-maintain-501c3-status-27073.html
- To help raise funds, research ways. One website lists all charities that register with them and score them - Guidestar (https://www.guidestar.org/home.aspx) that companies will use when deciding to donate or partner with. YourCause (https://solutions.yourcause.com/npo/) helps you get your name out there OR help get funds through employee giving sites. Amazon has a system; SmileAmazon (https://org.amazon.com/) that donates 0.5% of goods people purchase when they allocate your non-profit